Fiery helicopter crash speeds up fuel system discussion

Air Methods, the Colorado-based owner of the Flight for Life helicopter that crashed in Frisco in July, acknowledges the fiery crash has sped up the company's desire to retrofit the fuel systems on its entire fleet of AS-350 helicopters. 9NEWS at 4 p.m. 1

KUSA – Air Methods, the Colorado-based owner of the Flight for Life helicopter that crashed in Frisco in July, acknowledges the fiery crash has sped up the company's desire to retrofit the fuel systems on its entire fleet of AS-350 helicopters.

The statement, announced on the company's YouTube page, follows a five-month 9Wants to Know investigation into antiquated helicopter fuel systems. Our investigation has found, among other things, most of the helicopters registered in Colorado are not equipped with fuel systems that would survive a relatively low-impact crash.

In addition, 9Wants to Know has found evidence the former manufacturer of the AS-350, Eurocopter, had FAA approval for a crashworthy fuel system aboard the popular helicopter in 1992. The design, outlined in a 1992 FAA Supplemental Type Certificate, was never incorporated into the fleet and subsequently languished for decades as numerous AS-350s continued to erupt into flames following survivable crashes.

PREVIOUS STORY:Helicopter design 'loophole' may contribute to fiery deaths

In July, an Airbus AS-350 B3e Flight for Life helicopter crashed in Frisco thirty seconds after takeoff and quickly ignited. Surveillance video obtained by 9Wants to Know shows fuel pouring out of the aircraft six seconds after impact. Pilot Pat Mahany died, and flight nurse Dave Repsher suffered burns on more than 90% of his body. Fellow flight nurse Matt Bowe survived the crash.

Air Methods President of Domestic Air Medical Services Mike Allen stated in the YouTube video the crash has had a large impact on company. "There is no doubt the Frisco accident has accelerated the retrofit discussion."

According to a statement provided to 9NEWS, Air Methods plans on retrofitting more than 100 AS-350s starting next year assuming the retrofit design receives FAA approval.

It's a move endorsed by Flight for Life Colorado.

"Flight for Life Colorado fully supports the research and development of new crashworthy fuel systems for our helicopters," explained Program Director Kathy Mayer in the same video.

To see the video go to: http://bit.ly/1OakMT8

On Saturday at 4 P.M. , 9NEWS will air a 9Wants to Know Special Report "Fueling the Fire" that outlines the problem.

(© 2015 KUSA)


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